KATHMANDU: Nepal’s second international airport in Bhairahawa will be ready to conduct test flights by March-end, the Tourism Ministry has said.

Speaking at the annual Tripartite Portfolio Review meeting of the Asian Development Bank, Tourism Secretary Kedar Bahadur Adhikari said that the construction of the airport would be completed by December-end and test flights would begin three months later.

“We are in the process of appointing an airport operator. There are a number of foreign companies willing to manage the facility,” he said. He urged the Asian Development Bank, the financer of the project, to assist the ministry to prepare a modality for the airport’s operation.

Shreekrishna Nepal, joint secretary and chief of the International Economic Cooperation Coordination Division of the Ministry of Finance, asked why the Tourism Ministry had not set a realistic date for the airport’s launch as there was confusion over its completion and operation dates.

“There has been a series of announcements and postponements of launch dates which has created confusion,” he told the review meeting. Government officials said timely inauguration of the airport would give a boost to the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign when the country expects to host 2 million tourists.

Naresh Pradhan, project officer (transport) at the Asian Development Bank, said 77 percent of the physical works at the airport had been completed.

He said that the runway, taxiway, terminal building and air traffic control tower were ready. Workers are putting the finishing touches to the interiors and installing and testing various equipment. “As we have only three months, the furnishing work has to be expedited.”

The Aeronautical Radio of Thailand, which has received a $4.83 million contracts to install communications, navigation and surveillance and air traffic management systems has ordered the equipment from the manufacturer and the stuff will arrive soon, Pradhan said. It will take at least 90 days to set up the equipment.